Outside, the RFK Stadium scoreboard told the story: Portland 4, Washington 2. Inside, in the Diplomat locker room, an all-too-familiar scene was unfolding
In the middle of the room stood Coach Gordon Bradley, arms folded stoically, talking about mistakes and lost opportunities.
In one corner sat Johan cruyff, angrily telling reporters that the team has no balance, that the problem still is at midfield, that he is frustrated because, "I can do no more."
To his left, Steve Danzansky, the team president who has waited an eternity for the franchise to turn around, stared ahead and said quietly, "It's like a morgue in here, isn't it?"
There was good reason for silence in the Washington locker room yesterday. In full view of 10,634 fans the Diplomats were embarrassed by a team that had scored three goals in five games this season.
"If you lose to a team that is better than you it's one thing," said Cruyff, now without a goal in seven games as a Diplomat. "But when you lose to a team that you are better than, a weak team, it's frustrating. I'm very upset."
He wasn't the only one. Sonny Werblin, Madison Square Garden president, and Jack Krume, executive vice president, both grim-faced made their breiefest locker room appearances of the year. Then they headed home to New York to discuss how a team with the likes of Cruyff, Wim Jansen, Juan Jose Lozano and Alan Green has managed a 3-4 record and already fallen 21 points behind the Cosmos in the National Conference Eastern Division race.
"We gave up four goals on crossing pases," Bradley said. "You just can't do that and win. You can't give up four goals when you're playing at home."
But the Dips did. They started the day as if they were going to continue their pattern of the first six games of the season: weak on the road, dominant at home.
In the 14th minute, Tommy O'Hara sent Green down the left side with a long pass. Green charged into the box and tried to slide a pass to Bobby Stokes.
The pass was behind Stokes but ended up right on the foot of Sonny Askew. In full stride, the lanky American midfielder slammed a shot past Portland goalie Mick Poole and the Dips were up, 1-0, 13:22 into the game.
"Right then it looked like we were going to have a good day," said Stokes, like Cruyff still looking for is first goal of the season. "But before we knew it they got even and we never got going again."
The Timbers got even 52 seconds later when Willie Donachie slid a pass to Dale Mitchell, who floated a pass into the middle to Cruyff's former Dutch World Cup teammate, Rob Resenbrink. The striker outleaped the Diplomat defense and easily beat Bill Irwin with a header for a 1-1 tie.
"Their defenders were so intent on coming up that we had a lot of space to work with at their end," Portland Coach Don Megson said. "We wanted to work the ball to Mitchell and Resenbrink as much as possible. The strategy worked well."
The tie 1-1 tie lasted a little longer than the Washington lead -- almost seven minutes.
At that point, Portland's John Bain sent a high corner kick into the box.
Again, Resenbrink was in the air above the Washington defense. This time, instead of shooting, he headed the ball onto Mitchell's foot. Both Irwin and the Washington defense had broken toward Resenbrink and Mitchell had an easy 10-yard shot for a 2-1 Portland lead at 21:10.
"We gave up silly goals," said Diplomat defender Carmine Marcantonio, who played on the outside in place of Bob Iarusci, who sat out with a pinched nerve in his neck. "I can't say it was any one thing that caused the problem. We're just not doing the things that win soccer games. We had no luck today at all."
Actually, the Dips had some luck. In fact, it produced their last goal. Less than a minute after Mitchell's score. O'Hara and Portland defender Clive Charles collided outside the Washington penalty box. Both went down and eventually Charles had to leave with a badly sprained left ankle.
Charles was called for a foul, giving the Dips a direct free kick from just outside the penalty box. Lozano hit a line drive which Poole was about to catch when it hit defender Garry Ayre and bounced over the goalie's head into the net for a 2-2 tie at 22:08.
Charles came out after that goal, replaced by Clive Best, who promptly helped put Portland back in front. Outrunning the Washington defense, he set up Rensenbrink point-blank, eight yards in fron of Irwin. As Resenbrink tried to deke Irwin and tee up the ball, he slipped on the wet turf and got off a weak, rolling shot.
But Irwin, expecting a hard shot, had left his feet and could only watch helplessly as the ball slid past him, putting the Timbers ahead for good, 3-2 at the 34:05. mark.
That gave the Timbers three goals in 34:05 -- the same Portland team that had scored three goals in 465 minutes prior to yesterday. The fourth goal, by Mitchell on another header at 55;08, only added to Washington's embarrassment.
"We have the same problems now we had seven weeks ago," said Cruyff, who was shaken up diving for a ball in the goal area toward the end of the game. "We have no balance on this team. The problem is midfield. You can't play 11 players like me (offensive minded) and win.
"People have said, I am talking too much. If we were 7-0 I wouldn't have to talk. We are 3-4 so I must talk.
"What do I say?" He shrugged. "Right now, I'm not sure."
The same was true of Bradley. "I can't fault Billy Irwin," he said, "because he made some saves that kept us in the game.
"I can't fault the defense that much; they ran hard all day long. It was the whole thing, really. It wasn't any one thing.
"It was, he said ruefully, "a team efforts."